OBJECTIVES: Assessing whether interventions are implemented as intended (fidelity) is critical to establishing efficacy in clinical research yet rarely applied in advance care planning (ACP) interventions. We aimed to develop and implement a fidelity audit tool for an ACP intervention.
METHODS: We developed a fidelity audit tool assessing: (A) content; (B) quality (general communication, eliciting EOL preferences and prognostic communication); and (C) family/caregiver involvement. We audited (double-coded) 55 audio-recordings of ACP discussions delivered to advanced cancer patients and caregivers, within a clinical trial.
RESULTS: Fidelity to content was high: mean=9.38/11 but lower for the quality of general communication (mean=12.47/20), discussion of patient preferences (mean=4.67/7), prognosis (mean=3.9/6) and family/caregiver involvement (mean=2.67/4). Older patient age and caregiver religiosity were associated with higher fidelity. Higher fidelity to content was associated with the trial primary outcome of family caregiver report of patient wishes being discussed and met.
CONCLUSIONS: Fidelity to content, but not quality, of the ACP intervention is strong. Communication skills training is critical for ACP interventionists. Adherence was higher with older patients and religious carers, factors that may influence acceptance of death and readiness to undertake ACP, making the discussion easier.
BACKGROUND: We modified and evaluated an advance care planning (ACP) intervention, which had been shown to improve compliance with patient's end of life (EoL) wishes, in a different patient population.
METHODS: Patients with incurable cancer, and a Family Member (FM), were randomised one-to-one to usual care or usual care plus an ACP intervention, between April 2014 and January 2017. Oncologists and participants were non-blinded. ACP was based on the Respecting Patient Choices model, with an offer to provide individualised ranges for typical, best-case and worst-case scenarios for survival time. Seven facilitators (two oncology nurses, two nurses and three allied health professionals) delivered the intervention within 2 weeks of study enrolment. The primary outcome measure, assessed by interviewing the FM 3 months after patient death, was the FM perception that the patient's wishes were discussed, and met.
RESULTS: Six hundred and sixty-five patients from seven Australian metropolitan oncology centres were referred for consideration by their oncologists, 444 (67%) met the study inclusion criteria and were approached by a study researcher. Two hundred and eight patients (47%) and their FM entered the trial as dyads. Fifty-three (46%) dyads in the ACP group and 63 (54%) dyads in the usual-care group had complete primary outcome data (p = 0.16). Seventy-nine patients and 53 FMs attended an ACP discussion. Mean length of discussion was 57 min. FMs from 23 (43%) dyads allocated to ACP and 21 (33%) dyads allocated usual care reported the patient’s EoL wishes were discussed and met (difference 10%, 95% CI: -2 to 8, p = 0.27). There were no differences in EoL care received, patient satisfaction with care; FM satisfaction with care or with death; or FM well being. Rates of palliative care referral were high in both groups (97% vs 96%).
CONCLUSIONS: A formal ACP intervention did not increase the likelihood that EoL care was consistent with patients' preferences.